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If the Top Gun technology is here, how & where should I use it?

For the first 10 years of my career I was lucky enough to work in the field of Systems Engineering as a jack of all trades across the design & commissioning of complex avionic systems. These included all the buzz words of predictive maintenance (using IoT), augmented reality & artificial intelligence to recognise voice commands, track eye movements & merge high volume data from multiple sensors into real time actionable insights for the pilot.

Note: My favourite being to scream at the pilot in "nagging Nora's" voice to remind them to pull up and miss the approaching mountain side.

Over the past 15 years in NZ I've been involved in service & business transformation using evolving IT technology, ranging from disrupting the airport check-in experience for Air NZ, using laser, GPS & RFID technology to improve the training and safety of our troops, to creating, mentoring & leading a team of 50 IT technologists at Datacom, innovating for leading AgTech & FinTech enterprises across the Mighty Waikato & Bay Of Plenty.

So where's this going Nick? Well, the reality is that this Top Gun technology is now available & affordable for ALL, from enterprises down to small start-ups.

Although people are starting to gain an awareness of this, many are experiencing failed proof of concepts from a business viability perspective or don't know where to get the best value for money.

I'll be delving into common mistakes and lessons learnt on how to mitigate them during a talk at the #TWWaikato "IoT & Smart Cities" event @ Hamilton Gardens (Thursday 24th May 09:30), (and will post here at a later date), but wanted to reflect here on where I've seen risks mitigated well and the best opportunities leveraged.

Its sounds simple, but when recently doing a talk with UoW masters students wondered whether it could be boiled down to:

  • Step 1: De-compose your business into manageable blocks by service, capability of experience that people can visualise.
  • Step 2: Get the culture right so people are comfortable to communicate in a matrix fashion both internally and externally without fear.
  • Step 3: Have a centralised & prioritised risk & opportunity register
  • Step 4: Focus on the problems, issues, inefficiencies & opportunities that you'd want to tackle if there were no constraints. Don't throw away problems, periodically review them.

Step 1: De-compose your business into manageable blocks & visualise these service, capability and/or departmental views in a fashion that that people can easily and quickly understand. This can be in EA or BPM tools or simple in layered powerpoint slides (as below).

De-compose your business

Step 2: Get the culture right so people are comfortable to communicate in a matrix fashion to seek internal and external advice from trusted partners without fear. Let’s face it, even the leading technologists are struggling to keep up with the level of change. We accept that our GP doesn’t know everything and are even relieved when they refer us to a specialist, so why do companies often see getting specialist help a threat or a failure? We've had great success running innovation off sites & hackathons to get this going, but it needs to be done with partners who collaborate & coach, not dominate and make people feel inferior.
Step 3: Have a centralised & prioritised risk & opportunity register, written in functional terms and open to all (with filters for sensitive issues) visually mapped against business view (from step 1) & graphed against business value & complexity based on the logic that a) a solution has different value for different organisations and b) it needs to be easy to consume. Remember, the person who can solve your problem, probably doesn't have much time to get up to speed so keep it simple.

Step 4: Focus on the problems, issues, inefficiencies & opportunities that you'd want to tackle if there were no constraints. Don't throw away problems, periodically review them against evolving tech, enterprise knowledge & the market readiness. There's a real risk that key enterprise knowledge of customers, operations & specialist domains getting discarded because the original problem was discarded with the solution proposed at the time.

Professional Services Example: Company Y knows that their service to European clients has never been great and it's a constraint to reaching their potential in those markets. Historically, as it's not commercially viable to put on a 24/7 help desk staffed with people who are fluent in multiple languages. Now with AI, it's now feasible to perform real time translation during powerpoint presentations, real time translation over messaging & build relatively low cost chat bots that can translate in real time, understand questions to return context specific answers & even hand off to a real person if they detect someone is getting frustrated. It wont totally solve the problem, but it may go some way to improving it enough to justify my funding for a personal touch on the ground.

Distribution Example: Company Z has a distribution business which is losing money because a) a high proportion of the operating cost are associated with logistics storage & transportation and b) it's hard to predict customer needs and optimise deliveries. Using the development of IoT on LPWAN networks (e.g. SIGFOX), there's the potential to turn the service model around by monitoring clients stock levels (using easy to install sensors, with a long battery life and low connectivity costs) to predict sales needs, pro-actively market to clients based on need & reduce operating costs by always running your fleet with a high utilisation e.g. filling up some clients tanks by 1/2 or 3/4 rather than waiting for a call from them streaming that they are empty and that you need to take a small load to them ASAP).   The savings can be used to provide your clients with value add advice (to make your business sticky) or to invest in the future of your industry.

The additional benefit to this open, trusted and knowledge based approach may go some way to engage more people so issues & opportunities can be addressed effectively at all levels, while preventing essential knowledge of customers, the industry and operations, being lost as people leave, retire or more sadly, become de-motivated and just switch off.

Feel free to give us a shout to talk about how we could help de-mystify the noise and discuss how to use new tech to solve issues, remove in-efficiencies or leverage opportunities ( or 0276 22 55 88).

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